Sanjay Sharma, Indo-Asian news service
Bhopal, Feb 20 (IANS) It’s been a year since tall promises of relief and rehabilitation were made to them. But, as 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy survivors pointed out while launching the Right to Live campaign Tuesday, there has been little help from the Madhya Pradesh government.
The ‘Jeene Kaa Haq’ campaign marks the first anniversary of the survivors’ march from Bhopal to Delhi to highlight the plight of those affected by the tragedy.
The disaster occurred on the intervening night of Dec 2-3, 1984, when over 40 tonnes of lethal methyl isocyanate (MIC) spewed out of the now defunct Union Carbide pesticide plant, killing over 3,000 people instantly and maiming thousands of people for life.
More than 15,000 people affected with the exposure of toxic gas have died since then.
‘The repeated attempts to meet the chief minister since June 2006 have been futile and several petitions on behalf of people poisoned by Union Carbide have gone unanswered,’ said Satinath Sarangi, who belongs to the Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA).
‘The current Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has surpassed all previous governments in terms of incompetence, corruption and apathy shown towards the plight of gas victims.’
The leaders of various organisations of survivors accuse the state government of blocking the implementation of decisions by the Coordination Committee on Bhopal (CCB) to provide long-awaited relief and rehabilitation to victims.
The CCB, comprising officials from the centre and the state and representatives of survivors, was set up last year after 55 of them marched 800 km on foot from Bhopal to New Delhi to meet the prime minister who conceded their demands.
Survivors of the disaster and people affected by water-contamination near the abandoned Union Carbide factory also staged a sit-in at one of Bhopal’s busiest roads, the Roshanpura Square, to remind the government of its commitment on the first anniversary of their march.
The Right to Live movement has been launched to push for the resolution of long-pending demands, including healthcare and economic rehabilitation of survivors and their families, the supply of safe drinking water and the removal of hazardous waste from the Union Carbide plant.
Their demands include a monthly pension of Rs.1,000 per month to gas affected families living below the poverty line, women widowed by the disaster, gas victims above 60 years without family support, families with children with toxic-induced congenital malformations and families where the bread earner has died or is too sick to work.
They demanded that the state government ensure availability of funds for relief and rehabilitation of people poisoned by Union Carbide at least for the next 30 years.
The Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Stationery Karmachari Sangh (BGPMSKS), Bhopal Gas Peedit Mahila Purush Sangharsh Morcha (BGPMPSM), Bhopal Group for Information and Action (BGIA) and Bhopal Ki Aawaaz (BKA) are some of the organisations taking part in the campaign.